In the very moment when Nan-in asked: “Where are your shoes, on the right or on the left?” the disciple missed. In that very moment he hesitated – and he was not aware of the hesitation. He started thinking. In that very moment that he became unaware, Nan-in looked into him. That question was just to divert the mind, it was just a deception.
The disciple failed, so he cannot be sent to teach others. He is not yet ready, he is not yet aware. How can one who is not aware teach others? Whatsoever he is going to teach will be false. There are many teachers who can teach, and still they are not aware of their own selves. They can even be good teachers, efficient, artful, but that is not the point. They cannot be of any help.
I was traveling in a train once. One small boy was being a nuisance. All the passengers in the carriage were troubled. He was running from this corner to that, toppling glasses, falling on people, and the father was very embarrassed. He tried many times to stop the boy, but he wouldn’t listen.
When finally the father said: “Willy, if you don’t listen to me and if you don’t stop, I am going to spank you,” the boy still continued running. He went to the other end of the carriage and he said: “Okay, you spank me – but then I am going to tell the ticket collector how old I really am.”
This father cannot be a teacher. Even a child is not going to listen to him. A teacher who is unaware of his own self cannot be a teacher. He cannot teach others what he has not himself attained.
Awareness is something like an infectious disease. When a master is alert, aware, you become infected with his awareness. Sometimes, just sitting by the side of the master, you suddenly become aware – as if the clouds have gone and you can see the open sky. Even for a moment – but that becomes a deep change in the very quality of your being.
Even not making any effort on your part, just being near a master who is a pool of silent awareness, suddenly you become silent. He touches you. The closed doors open, or as if on a dark night suddenly there is lightning and you see the whole. It disappears because it cannot be retained by you. If it is not attained by you, you will lose it – but you will never be the same again. You have known something, something that was previously unknown. And now this knowing will remain a part of you. There will arise a desire, there will arise a new ambition: to attain this, to make this permanent – because even for a moment it was so blissful, it showered so much happiness on you, so much joy.
But if the master, if the teacher, is not himself aware, he can teach about awareness but he cannot teach awareness. And teaching about awareness is useless – it is verbal, it is a theory. You can learn the theory from him, but you cannot learn the fact. Hence, before this disciple leaves Nan-in, Nan-in must look into him – and this is a very different phenomenon.